first american republic
This website is designed to be an introduction to, supplement to, and companion to the book 'THE FIRST AMERICAN REPUBLIC: 1774-1789
(The First Fourteen American Presidents Before Washington)'


Chapter 3: President JOHN HANCOCK of Massachusetts 

Disguised Immortality

first american republic Unlike Randolph and Middleton, John Hancock was not born into wealth and power. He was the son and grandson of Congregational ministers. His humble birth in rural Massachusetts held no clue to the enormous fame and fortune he would ultimately attain. He became one of the most remarkable examples of early American success and perhaps the best politician of the Revolutionary Era. John's family, however, began life at the bottom rung of society. His great-great-grandfather, Nathaniel Hancock, Sr., arrived in America in 1634, little more than a decade after the Pilgrims landed at Cape Cod Harbor. He settled in what became the village of Cambridge where the first college in America was founded two years later. Such close proximity to Harvard afforded his descendants, including John, a unique opportunity to advance in colonial society.

In 1775, John Hancock was elected as the third President of the Continental Congress. He served in that high office for two and a half years, longer than any of his thirteen colleagues. As President, it was his large and dramatic signature that made the Declaration of Independence official on July 4, 1776.

The following decade, as the popular Governor of Massachusetts, John was selected to preside over his state's Ratification Convention. Weeks later, when the fate of the proposed constitution seemed to hang in the balance, John publicly endorsed the document. Shortly thereafter, Massachusetts formally approved the new charter by a vote of 187-168. It was perhaps the greatest moment of John Hancock's long public life. As one biographer stated: "...in the final analysis it was Hancock's prestige and influence which successfully decided the issue..." If Massachusetts had not ratified, the new constitution would have been lost.